In considering living modern masters of the trumpet, Wynton Marsalis comes to mind first, not Jerry Gonzalez. This is a travesty, because in the warm, bronze glow of Gonzalez's sound there is a singular majesty that deserves much wider recognition than the trumpeter gets. Perhaps it is because he plays in an idiom slightly more insular than mainstream. Now that he resides for the large part in Spain, he is even less frequently recalled. Perhaps his extraordinarily beautiful album, Jerry Gonzalez, with his relatively new Spanish ensemble El Comando con Clave, will change all that.
This ensemble elevates Gonzalez's music in a manner that is reminiscent of what bassist/brother Andy Gonzalez and pianist Larry Willis, from the erstwhile Fort Apache Band, once did. Bassist, Alain Perez and the brilliant pianist Javier Masso "Caramelo" do wonders and glorify the trumpet and flugelhorn on this album. However, Gonzalez's consistently intense, fiery and profound playing stands out by itself, with Gonzalez his usual irreverent self, renaming such sacred standards as "Someday My Prince Will Come" as "Someday My Prints Will Come (Back from the FBI)," with not-so-hidden irony. But that somewhat hard title also contrasts with the depth and beauty of his tone on this and other charts on the album. His reading of "Tenderly" is slower than usual, accentuating the true heartache embedded in the song's narrative. His playing is also soft; his articulation is barely above a whisper at times, and decidedly sensuous.
Gonzalez is as brilliant an improviser as he is a melodist. He weaves color and subtle shades into a beautiful, almost rare musical tapestry and his phrasing flutters airily across this artifact. Sometimes his playing rises slowly and vertically as he moves the melody onward, at other times he races horizontally, as if reaching out for some vanishing point in the song. And just when it appears that he is all but lost, he recovers abruptly, takes a dazzling break on his alternate instrumentthe congasand reins himself in again on either trumpet or flugelhorn, once again finding his silken voice and the lost melody.
The album is flawless from end to end and several performances are monumental. The reading of "Love for Sale" is an intensely personal one, with Gonzalez leading the ensemble, turning this usually lovelorn ballad into a sensuous melody full of ebullient twists and turns between trumpet and percussion. On Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," the ponderous quietude of the song is transposed, with a voluptuous Latin twinge into a dramatic contrapuntal excursion between voice and trumpet, presided over by some miraculous sounding double-stops on bass. And, of course, the duende of Diego El Cigala's voice drives the music of "Avisale a mi Contrario." That and Gonzalez's molten, brassy lines make a magic so rare and powerful that the sound of the songand the albumlingers a lot longer than the last single note played by the trumpeter, thus confirming that Jerry Gonzalez is everything that a great virtuoso is cracked up to be.
Someday My Prints Will Come (Back from the FBI); Resolution; Equipoise; Tenderly; Obsesion; Love for Sale; In a Sentimental Mood; Avisale a mi Contrario.
Jerry Gonzalez: trumpet, flugelhorn, congas, background vocals (8); Javier Masso "Caramelo": piano, guiro (3), background vocals (8); Alain Perez: bass, voice, background vocals (8); Kiki Ferrer: drums, background vocals (8); Alberto "Chele" Cobo: clave; Diego "El Cigala": voice (8); Israel Suarez "Piranha": cajon (8).
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